After 20 years in exile, photographer Cesar Augusto returned to his native country of Cuba to create "The Soul of Cuba," a large hardcover book featuring more than 100 powerful photographs taken in the Caribbean island.
Cesar Augusto learned his craft in the capital city of Havana but, after having his work repeatedly censored, he left his homeland shortly after earning his university degree. He arranged for post-graduate work in Moscow and requested political asylum in Ireland during his flight’s lay-over. "Cuba has been the place of my dreams and nightmares for the last 20 years. It was a beautiful prison from which I escaped. It is the most enduring pain, to be able only to imagine the place were you were born, where you were first loved, as a faded and decaying paradise. I knew I would not be capable of making "postcards" or travelogue photos, because that is not how I see Cuba." He makes this visual statement clear by his choice of an opening photo: the weather-beaten wooden door of a turn-of-the-century limestone building with the word "Paraiso" chiseled above the doorway.
Cesar debated over returning to the island, in part because of the controversy that exists around Cuba, but also because of a fear of how he might find the economically challenged nation. "Contrary to what I expected, Cuba still has a vibrancy that impressed me more than the decrepit buildings or the relatively sparsely stocked stores. Everywhere I looked, people were renovating their homes and opening micro businesses. In fact, I confess that I hardly recognized some of the most familiar places, like my old neighborhood."
The images in this book, captured through the lens of a native son, reflect the bitter and the sweet of the realization that "you can't go home again" but you can find a new appreciation for an old love. Without succumbing to easy nostalgia, some photos are beautifully poignant while others show the energy and determination of a people who are not just surviving but thriving, on their own terms.
The book will be released at the end of July 2012 and is available through pre-sale now. Later this year Cesar Augusto will launch "The Soul of Cuba" tour, featuring large scale prints from the book and other opportunities to experience Cuban culture through food and music.